Each spring, the Zigler Center sponsors a 3-day trip to Washington, D.C. for its fellows. The purpose of the trip is to orient academic researchers to Washington and the federal policy-making process. Zigler fellows meet with a variety of “players” in the policy making process. See the schedule for the 2011 DC Policy Orientation Trip.
“The Zigler fellows' trip to DC was a great chance for me to think about shaping my career to allow time to explore public policy at the national level. It was one of the highlights of my time at Yale. ” -Carolyn Gosse, Zigler Early Career Fellow
Trips typically include visits to Congressional staffers, think tanks, advocacy organizations, and Executive Branch agencies. Fellows visit Capitol Hill to observe hearings, markups and floor action in the Senate and House of Representatives. Fellows are also encouraged to meet individually with legislators from their own states or districts or with their staffers.
“I learned a great deal about policy making in a very short time. The trip was a valuable experience that will help me advocate more effectively on behalf of clients in the future.” -Rachel Loftin, Pre-doctoral (clinical psychology) Zigler fellow
Fellows often state that the policy orientation trip is their single most vivid learning experience at the Zigler Center. Suddenly, the perspectives gained in the Social Policy Lecture Series and fellows' meetings become very real. Talking with policy makers on their own turf makes the differences between the academic culture and political culture quite clear.
“The trip taught me a good deal about how and in what ways research could contribute to the policy world…the trip further extended my interest in social policy surrounding child issues; I am excited to research possible future job/fellowship opportunities. I noticed that past Zigler Center fellows were well represented in D.C. and am sure that their trips to D.C. in years past were a part of their job decisions.” -Maria Parente, Pre-doctoral (psychology) Zigler fellow
It also makes government seem more accessible. Fellows can imagine writing or calling a congressional staff member or an agency official. They are armed with important "insider" knowledge about how they can make their research relevant to the policy making process. They can also imagine testifying, one day, as an expert witness at a congressional hearing. Finally, they are informed about possible careers that they can pursue in the policy arena. The bridge between research knowledge and participation in policy is built when fellows venture out of the university to take a first-hand look at the world of policy and politics.